Move Over Chelsea!

Chiswick was home to the original flower shows

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Historian David Fletcher on the day Chiswick's tank rolled into town

The History of Chiswick

The Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society


The Chiswick Book past and present by Gillian Clegg. A gazetteer of Chiswick’s history, with an A-Z arrangement for easy reference.

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Although today it’s Chelsea that’s known as the home of the flower show, the first recorded flower show in Britain was actually held by the Royal Horticultural Society in Chiswick on 25th May 1833.

The fêtes (forerunners of the Chelsea Flower Show) held at the Horticultural Society’s Chiswick gardens were one of the main events of the London 'season' with carriages to Turnham Green lining the road from Hyde Park Corner.

The first fête was held in 1827 and by the 1840s there were three fêtes a year in May, June and July (the last fête in Chiswick was in 1857). Produce from the garden was displayed in a long line of large marquees; refreshments were provided and regimental bands entertained visitors throughout the day.
The Horticultural Society (it didn’t receive the Royal Charter until 1861) had its experimental gardens in Chiswick from 1822 to 1904. They occupied the land now covered by Alwyn Avenue, Barrowgate Road, Hadley Gardens and Wavendon Avenue.

The Society leased the 33 acres from the Duke of Devonshire. They adjoined the grounds of Chiswick House so a private gate was inserted between the two properties to enable the Duke to enter the gardens whenever he chose. Half the gardens were allocated to fruit and vegetables; 13 acres to flowers and shrubs and there was an eight-acre arboretum.
This was the heyday of plant collecting and hot houses were built for the exotic plants now being brought back from the Far East, the Americas and other places. The Society also ran conferences and a training scheme for young would-be gardeners and this is where Joseph Paxton, later to build the Crystal Palace, was trained.

Dr John Lindley, who lived in Chiswick, became Assistant Secretary of the gardens in 1822, and was the Secretary between 1858 and 1863. In 1870 the Royal Horticultural Society reduced its Chiswick acreage to just 11 acres (it had opened additional gardens in Kensington in 1861). The glasshouses were demolished and the arboretum swept away. By 1900 with Chiswick becoming built over the Society was looking for new land. In 1903 the Society was presented with an estate in Wisley, Surrey and moved its experimental gardens there in 1904. The cul-de-sac called Horticultural Place is the only reminder we have of what must have been an oasis in the heart of Chiswick

Source: The Chiswick Book by Gillian Clegg

June 1, 2009